WASHINGTON — Ed Gonzalez, President Biden’s nominee to head U.S. immigration and customs enforcement, said Monday he was stepping down after a long-disturbed nomination.
In a letter to the president, Mr. Gonzalez, the sheriff of Harris County, Texas, of which Houston is also a part, and a fierce critic of the harsh policies at the agency he would lead, said he had “withdrawn into the best interest of the nation.” He noted that he had been nominated 14 months ago and said he must focus his “full, undivided attention” on his duties as sheriff.
With the bitter political divisions over immigration surrounding his appointment, Sheriff Gonzalez faced a difficult path from the start. But his confirmation process was further complicated and delayed for months after Oklahoma Republican Senator James Lankford released a police affidavit accusing Sheriff Gonzalez of domestic violence against his wife, Melissa.
Both Sheriff Gonzalez and his wife had denied the charges. The police officer who wrote the affidavit later told a Senate committee in a statement that corroborative evidence he cited in the affidavit did not exist, according to a summary of the committee’s findings. A staff member of the commission added that its investigators could not find any evidence to confirm the allegations.
The withdrawal was yet another blow to both ICE, which has had no permanent director since the Obama administration, and the Biden administration, which has seen immigration become a political liability as it struggles to contain the flow of migrants at the border. checkers and much of the harsh policies it has inherited. It came one day that the bodies of at least 46 people believed to be migrants were found dead in and around a tractor-trailer on the outskirts of San Antonio.
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Sheriff Gonzalez “would have been a great leader of ICE,” the White House said in a statement. “We thank Sheriff Gonzalez for his willingness to serve in the face of unfounded allegations against his family.”
The appointment of Sheriff Gonzalez, who had sharply criticized the Trump administration’s deportation policies, marked a significant departure from the tough immigration chiefs who had served under President Donald J. Trump. As sheriff, he had terminated a partnership with ICE because, he said, the program encouraged “illegal racial profiling.”
Trump’s rejection, as well as ICE, has been criticized by Senate Republicans. But for Mr Biden, the appointment was a step toward fulfilling his promise of more humane immigration policies under his administration.
“America has shown the world that it is not only possible to survive, but to thrive, as a nation that welcomes people who seek new homes and a better life through hard work and honesty,” Sheriff Gonzalez said. years during his hearing.
Sheriff Gonzalez’s withdrawal was the latest in a series of setbacks to that promise, to efforts to fill vacant leadership positions at the Department of Homeland Security, and to Mr. Biden as a whole. A long-planned effort to lift a major pandemic-era immigration restriction was blocked by a federal judge last month. Another federal judge on Saturday suspended a policy by the Biden administration that prioritized the arrest of undocumented immigrants deemed a threat, leaving millions of people vulnerable to deportation.
Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro N. Mayorkas has also faced scathing criticism from Republican lawmakers as a momentous wave of migration across the southwestern border has flooded immigration offices. And the number of deportations of Haitian emigrants has risen, even as the Biden administration faces criticism from progressive groups and lawmakers for its treatment of black migrants.
Sheriff Gonzalez said he would now devote his energies to leading his department and tackling the rising crime and overcrowded prisons in his county.
“I am grateful to President Biden for the honor of nominating me,” he said on Twitter Monday. And I wish this administration the best in its efforts to overcome the crippling political stalemate that threatens far more than our country’s borders. Frankly, the dysfunction threatens the heart and soul of America.”